In the unfinished attics and crawlspaces across the US, there are many insulation options to keep the rest of the property warm or cool depending on the season. While traditional options include blanket (or “batt”) insulation or block insulation, lightly used or closed off spaces often make use of loose fill insulation – or variants like “blow-in” insulation. In older homes, there is a very real risk that this insulation contains asbestos – on purpose or due to contamination – and due to its loose nature, asbestos loose fill insulation pose a greater health hazard than many other asbestos-containing materials.
Types of Asbestos Loose Fill Insulation
Loose-fill insulation was an “easy in” insulation that was blown or poured into attics and crawl spaces of homes and commercial buildings. Usually lightweight and easily disrupted by air currents, dangerous types of this insulation can either be mostly made of asbestos or be made partially of vermiculite – in some cases contaminated vermiculite that shouldn’t contain asbestos at all.
Asbestos was praised as a “miracle mineral” of its time due to several of its qualities. For insulation, the light silicate fibers could be treated to trap air between them to form a great insulator. Due to its mineral nature, it also was used to help fireproof homes, especially important in the roof areas of homes due to the nature of residential fires. Loose fill insulation was only one kind of asbestos insulation used.
Contaminated Vermiculite Insulation
Asbestos is a mined mineral, a silicate formation found in the earth. Like with many minerals, multiple types of similar composition or formation process can be found near each other. The mineral vermiculite is one that can be found with traces of asbestos, and such mines in the United States were not tested for asbestos contamination. As such, vermiculite insulation, a common type of older loose fill insulation, could often be contamination with asbestos. See our blog, Understanding Asbestos Contamination, for more details.
Identifying and Dealing with Asbestos Insulation
If your home or business contains loose fill insulation, you can perform a visual inspection of the insulation to help determine its origin.
- Zonolite Contaminated Insulation: The most common contaminated vermiculite insulation, Zonolite is gray-brown or silver and gold. It will lay flat in attics but puff accordion-like in heat.
- Identifying Other Loose Fill Insulation: Loose fill insulation comes in three other major types. Cellulose is dull, gray, and soft. Fiberglass is glossy, white, and fluffy. Rock wool is fibrous and gray.
If you’re uncertain, it’s worth getting assistance. Loose-fill insulation can be tested for the presence of asbestos and can be part of a building inspection. If you’re in the New England area, Fiber Control, Inc. can help. We specialize in the procedures for dealing with asbestos and other hazardous materials in Massachusetts or New Hampshire. If you need asbestos inspection and abatement, contact us today.